8 Key Metrics to Pay Attention to for Virtual Events

The shift to virtual has presented the events industry with several unexpected benefits, one of which is the copious amount of data that can now be tracked and measured. Online platforms make it easy to capture numbers on attendance, time spent, engagement, and more.

The challenge now, however, is figuring out which metrics to pay attention to for a given event. This guide provides a rundown of eight key metrics that event planners should have on their dashboard, what they mean, and why they matter.

1. Event registration and attendance

Registration is a key measure of success for any type of event. This metric shows how many people are interested in what you have to offer. But it’s also important to measure registration against actual attendance. If there is a significant gap between the two, you may want to figure out why that is and how to maximize attendees.

This year, virtual events have seen an average conversion rate of 47% from registrations to attendees. If you host events regularly, it could also be valuable to compare conversion rates across events to better understand your audience’s preferences.

2. Participation time

Besides attendance, another key metric is the average time guests spend at an event, whether that’s a seminar, keynote speaker, or sponsored session. This is a useful way to gauge how engaging the content is, and whether guests find it relevant or interesting. If attendees are dropping off halfway through the session, it may mean the event did not meet their expectations.

“Dwell time is a metric that’s much easier to track now with virtual events,” said Ken Holsinger, senior vice president of Data Solutions at the Freeman Company. “How much time are people actually spending and where are they spending it. You can break this down into various categories of activity, such as time spent on networking, learning, or with sponsors or exhibitors.”

3. Audience engagement

Audience engagement can be measured in many different ways depending on the event. If your event incorporates Q&A sessions, live polls, or chat channels, engagement can be tracked through the amount of interaction on these platforms. How many questions were asked? How many people responded to the poll? What was the activity level on the chat channel? How many connections were made during the networking session? These numbers can provide real-time feedback on attendees’ engagement level.

Especially for internal events for which attendance is mandatory—such as company retreats or business gatherings—audience engagement can be a helpful way to measure success.

4. Repeat participation

The virtual environment makes it easier for people from all over the world to access events. But sometimes the key performance indicator (KPI) to pay attention to is how much of the audience you’re retaining for future engagement. This metric is especially relevant for events with multiple sessions or booths, such as conferences and trade shows. Are attendees only participating in one experience, or are they coming back for more? 

Audience retention is always a good sign. It indicates that your event has created enough value to keep people interested and eager to learn more. Repeat attendees for specific brands or sponsors can also indicate that they are fans or have the potential to become fans of what’s being promoted.

5. On-demand consumption

Providing on-demand access to event content is a great way to broaden your audience as it allows attendees from different locations to engage with content on their own time. Whether it’s rewatching event recordings, downloading presentation slides, or engaging with additional content, on-demand consumption can be a good indicator of event success and audience retention, especially for events hosted by professional societies where learning is the main objective. 

“The real potential with virtual data is around engagement, especially recurring engagement,” said Joe Colangelo, CEO and co-founder of Bear Analytics. “Through tracking whether people are coming back to a multi-day event or engaging with on-demand content, we can maximize attendees’ time and event experience.”

6. Audience satisfaction

Audience satisfaction can be measured through post-event surveys and is a useful gauge of success for any event type, including speaker sessions, sponsored activities, and user conferences. For user conferences, audience satisfaction can be used to gauge the quality of the overall conference as well as specific interactions, such as virtual technical support sessions for software companies.

7. Sales leads

For events like trade shows or product launches that have a commercial purpose, the number of sales leads generated is a key measure of success. Through tracking this metric across booths and sessions, you can identify what worked well and maximize the potential for lead generation in future engagements. Virtual event platforms with customer relationship management (CRM) integrations can help streamline the process for measuring sales leads.

8. Consumption behaviors

One of the biggest value-adds that the virtual landscape brings us is the ability to track individuals’ consumption behaviors and then use that to figure out what people care about. 

“What virtual provides is a distinction between stated versus behavioral insights,” said Nick Fugaro, CEO of Vivastream. “What people say they’re going to do isn’t always what they end up doing. Behavioral insights allow the sales and account teams to see what people really cared about, and a lot of those insights help those teams be more effective in their post-event follow-up.”

For virtual events, it’s much easier to collect data on where people are tuning in from, what topics attendees are most interested in, and what activities they’re spending the most time on. This data can be helpful to create target groups for marketing purposes, as well as promotion for future events.

Companies like Bear Analytics, Data Solutions by Freeman, and Vivastream focus on capturing all of this data and organizing them into digestible insights for event planners to review and learn from.

Looking to expand on foundational measurement skills to learn progressive approaches for market analysis, budgeting, ROI measurement and analytics, and more?

Join our next Advanced Event Design & Strategy online professional development course, designed to walk learners through developing a complete, end-to-end or full-cycle event/meeting strategy plan document.